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December 2016 – upcoming gigs – ‘Staggerlee Wonders’ with Robert Mitchell, Debbie Sanders, Corey Mwamba, John Edwards, Elaine Michener, Mark Sanders and others (London, 8th); Trio Generations with Maggie Nichols/Lisa Ullén/Matilda Rolfsson (Cheltenham and London, 9th & 11th)

5 Dec

StaggerLee Wonders
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Thursday 8th December 2016, 8.00pm
– information here and here

'Staggerlee Wonders', 8th December 2016Billed as “an evening of radical poetry and prose fused with free improvised music”, this event’s title is taken from James Baldwin’s blazingly scornful, almost conversational poem – itself named for the black outlaw/hoodlum who flits and thunders through a set of conflicting American tales and songs, taking on the roles of murderer, proud badass, pimp and more.

In all cases, Stagger Lee’s become a byword and signifier for transgressive black resistance to cultural pressure and norms. A lengthy lope in a thickly jazzy, declamatory style, Baldwin’s version takes up the final, revolutionary Stagger Lee position, setting aside the thuggery, choosing instead to weigh up the protests, delusions and not-so-secret wickednesses of white hegemony in one Afro-American palm (seamed with exile, scepticism and righteous ire) before firing up his sardonic, acidic tongue to flay and spit the flesh right off their bones. It’s not clear whether Baldwin’s take will be performed as the evening’s centrepiece, or whether it simply serves as an inspiration; but it certainly sets the bar high, both artistically and politically.

Various performers, both black and white, are confirmed to attend. Hopefully, they’ll all rise to the explicit challenge. Reknowned for his weighty slowhand approach, jazz pianist Robert Mitchell has worked with Epiphany3, F-ire Collective and Panacea. Jazz/folktronicist Corey Mwamba plays small instruments, dulcimer and electronics across assorted projects but is best known for his highly dynamic, hammers-to-humming vibraphone playing and for the ongoing questioning spirit which he explores in both live music and academia (and any intersections he can make between the two). Voices come from restless, movement performer and polygenre singer Elaine Michener (recently seen at the Cockpit Theatre in a quartet with Alexander Hawkins) and from storytelling singer/composer Debbie Sanders (currently heading up Mina Minou Productions, previously embedded in proto-acid-jazz, trip-hop and British R&B via work with Skylab and Chapter & The Verse).

Bass and drums are provided by two stunning soloists who also happen to make up one of London music’s most formidable rhythm partnerships. Both double bass player John Edwards and drummer Mark Sanders are capable of a breadth of sound and attack on their respective instruments, running across an orchestral breadth from whisper to hailstone attack (via conversation or monologue, from growling belligerence to kidding conversation or querying patter).

More people may be showing up to play, but that’s already a pretty thrilling loose sextet to work with and to choose from.

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Trio Generations is an intermittent name for a convocation of three top European improvisers, Maggie Nichols, Lisa Ullén and Matilda Rolfsson. Formed last year, they’re playing a couple of English shows to bookend the upcoming weekend. Outlines below, mostly from the Café Oto pages:

Trio Generations, 2016

Trio Generations, 2016

Maggie Nicols joined London’s legendary Spontaneous Music Ensemble in 1968 as a free improvisation vocalist. She then became active running voice workshops with an involvement in local experimental theatre. She later joined the group Centipede, led by Keith and Julie Tippets and in 1977, with musician/composer Lindsay Cooper, formed the remarkable Feminist Improvising Group. She lives in Wales and continues performing and recording challenging and beautiful work, in music and theatre, either in collaborations with a range of artists (Irene Schweitzer, Joelle Leandre, Ken Hyder, Caroline Kraabel) as well as solo.

Matilda Rolfsson is a Swedish percussionist and free improviser, based in Trondheim, Norway. During the spring of 2015 she was temporarily based in London where she finished her masters in free improvisation and the relationship between improvised music and dance at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. During her London stay Matilda got the chance to meet and play with some of Londons most efficient improvisers: Phil Minton, Sylvia Hallett and London Improvisers Orchestra with Maggie Nichols. With her 20” vintage Gretsch bass drum, Tibetan bowls, gongs, bells and plastic isolations, sticks, fingers and brushes, Matilda explores the free improvisation and the instant compositions shaped in the moment: dynamics, orchestrations – structure and chaos. To make rules and break rules, always with the question: where’s the music going, and where’s the freedom?

“Pianist Lisa Ullén grew up in the northern part of Sweden, and is based in Stockholm. A versatile player with a singular musical vision, Lisa has repeatedly proven her ability to imprint her absolute sense for tonal texture on whatever musical context she appears in. Besides working as a soloist and leader of her own groups, Lisa has collaborated extensively with many well-known Swedish artists and dancers, and has also scored several dramatic productions. She’s also performed and recorded music by contemporary composers.”
 
To provide a sense of what might be coming, here’s the full half-hour set from their debut performance at IKLECTIK in 2015: a fractured, prolonged collective improvisation which swaps mood, pace and suggestions like a game of speed poker, with passing shreds of blues. Although Lisa and Matilda match her with lethally-aimed flinders of explosive, challenging percussion and piano, Maggie remains the centre of attention via a performance that’s as much stand-up comedy or theatre piece as it is free jazz. She produces not only the clucks, hisses, pants and operatics of free-voice improv but a bewildering spiky cavalcade of female voices and archetypes (hopeful chitterer, wise sly crone, mother in labour, put-upon wailer, deft gossiper) while including fleeting lyrics from jazz, blues or music hall and assorted Dada twists (including a phase which sounds like a demonic toothbrushing session).


 

This month’s Trio Generations dates:

  • Xposed Club @ Francis Close Hall, University of Gloucestershire, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, GL50 4AZ, England, Friday 9th December 2016, 8.00pm (with Chris Cundy) – information
  • Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England, Monday 11th December 2016, 8.00pminformation

At the Café Oto show, John Edwards will be joining in to make the group a quartet. While there’s no support act at Oto, at the Xposed Club Cheltenham reedsman/multi-instrumentalist Chris Cundy will be providing a solo slot on bass clarinet and saxophone. A tactile extended-technique player, Chris began as a self-taught Medway busker coming into his own under the combined influence of Eric Dolphy (on record) and Billy Childish (in the flesh and in the kitchen). Following a relocation to Cheltenham to pursue fine art, Chris has broadened his scope into a world of other collaborations in film, electronica, free improvisation and pop. He’s worked extensively with Fyfe Dangerfield (as part of the Guillemots horn section and as an integral member of Gannets), with Canadian freak-folkers Timbre Timbre and a succession of left-field singer-songwriters. His extended techniques (including multi-phonics, circular breathing and microtonality) have also led him into exploring the works of Cage and Cardew and those of contemporary avant-garde composers such as Thanos Chrysakis and Pete M Wyer, as well as producing a growing number of albums of his own work.


 

November 2016 – upcoming London gigs – a dash through the weekend (26th, 27th) – various adventures in international folk music, experimental music, hip hop and underground rock via Tuesdays Post, Daylight Music, Laura Cannell, Nest Collective Baba Yaga’s Hut and others…

23 Nov

This week finds me ill, exhausted, busy and needing to catch up with things outside the blog – and hence unable to go into the usual detail. Consequently, the usual semi-coherent stammering of recommendations is being cut short. I’m just going to offer a few quick notes and pointers to my picks from this London weekend’s explosion of interesting concerts, and will let you catch up with them yourselves.

Daylight Music 240, 26th November 2016On Saturday, Laura Cannell‘s hosting her ‘Memory Mapping’ afternoon at Daylight Music, including an improvised duet between herself and fellow alt.violinist Angharad Davies, the coastline sound creations of former ‘Wire’ writer Jennifer Lucy Allan and what looks like a Charles Hayward piano piece which may or may not be a song cycle. I’ve already previewed that here a few weeks ago (complete with sounds and visions), so go back and have a look.

The Song Collectors Collective Gathering, 2016At the same time, an incredible wealth of acoustic, folk and international-indigenous music talent will be riding into east London for two twinned and overlapping Nest Collective events at the same impressive Dalston venue – St Mark Church, a grand Early English Gothic Revival pile sometimes described as “the East End’s cathedral”.

Beginning in the morning, the Song Collectors Collective Gathering celebrates and presents the people who conserve rare oral culture within their communities in Britain, Ireland and beyond; and explores ideas spinning off from that. This year it features (among others) storyteller Hugh Lupton, tireless folk archivists Doc Rowe and Paul Wilson, ethnomusicologists Angela Impey and Shzr Ee Tan, and ethnobotanist Sarah Edwards. Topics explored will include song collecting in South Sudan and Taiwan, Doc’s vast archive of unseen videos of Britain’s great traditional singers, political-musical activism on the internet, and “plant knowledge collected with the Songman”.

Starting up in the afternoon is Unamplifire – a jaw-dropping seven-hour assemblage of international folk talent which, at a better time, would warrant a whole post to itself. Traditional and curated music from England, Ireland, Eastern Europe and West Africa, Okinawa and Taiwan, both pure and cross-pollinated; with encompassed styles including griot, London psych-folk and deep-probing acoustic pop and instrumentation including kora, whistles, violins, acoustic guitars, electronics and – above all – the human voice in all of its diversity. For the full list of Unamplifire players, take a look at the details below.

Unamplifire lineup, 2016
 
Tuesdays Post, 26th November 2016Having successfully transferred from north-east London to west London, Tuesdays Post are staging another gig of electronic-slanted progressive/improvisational music on Saturday evening. This week, founder/regular Georgina Brett picks up her voiceloops to engage in a pair of superbly cluttered duets. One of these will be with Jono Podmore (the theremin, delay and ring modulator–wielding Metamono member and Kumo mastermind, who’s promising to bring along an extra selection of intriguing technological gizmos), and another with electro-acoustic instrument inventor Tom Fox (creator of the Springything, the Multi-Dronemachine and the Twitter-triggered Hummingbird). Tom will also be appearing as one-third of improvising experimental textural noise trio YOAF (the other two thirds being Jon Saunders and Tim Yates). Interactive visuals will be provided by Hanzo.

Dälek + Necro Deathmort, 26th November 2016Baba Yaga’s Hut (who haven’t featured in ‘Misfit City’ for a while, thanks to buggered-up mailing list problems) are also doing the honours with two interesting sounding gigs over the weekend. Each of them features what’s becoming a regular Baba Yaga format: an intriguing well-known underground import plus a home-grown Baba regular.

The first of these is an electro/beat fest with long-lived New Jersey hip-hoppers Dälek (whose dense, industrially-slanted noise-stew has annoyed purists and thrilled listeners since 1998) and edge-of-the-seat electronicists Necro Deathmort whose tangled fusion of doom metal, droning dystopian science-fiction synth noise and free-jazz echoes sees them flit like plague mosquitoes from genre to genre. The second is a free showcase for all-female Finnish trio Olimpia Splendid (whose Can-like psychedelic grooves, dogged dour-skew riffing and growly babydoll vocals have been gathering them plenty of attention over the last couple of years) and London pagan “aggrocultural punktronicist” trio Snapped Ankles (the ones who dress up in striking topiary costumes as wild woodwoses, swaying behind various customised instruments like giant hedge carvings while picking out noisy ritual rhythms and post-rural, post-industrial chanting).

Olimpia Splendid, 2016
 
All of this going on… and I’m too knackered to drag myself to any of it. The story of my year, really.

Addresses, links, times etc below.

The Nest Collective presents:
Song Collectors Collective Gathering 2016
St Mark Church Dalston, St Mark’s Rise/Colveston Crescent, Dalston, London, E8 2LJ, England
Saturday 26th November 2016, 10.30am to 6pm
information

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 240: Laura Cannell presents “Memory Mapping”: Laura Cannell + Charles Hayward + Mythos Of Violins + Jennifer Lucy Allan
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 26th November 2016, 12.00pm
– free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

The Nest Collective presents:
Unamplifire 2
St Mark Church Dalston, St Mark’s Rise/Colveston Crescent, Dalston, London, E8 2LJ, England
Saturday 26th November 2016, 4.00pm to 11.00pm
information

Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Dälek + Necro Deathmort
Corsica Studios, 4-5 Elephant Road, Elephant & Castle, London, SE17 1LB, England
Saturday 26th November 2016, 7.00pm
– information here and here

Tuesdays Post present:
YOAF + Jono Podmore + Tom Fox & Georgina Brett
The Muse Gallery, 269 Portobello Road, Ladbroke Grove, London, W11 1LR, England
Saturday 26th November 2016, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Baba Yaga’s Hut presents:
Olimpia Splendid + Snapped Ankles
Birthdays, 33-35 Stoke Newington Road, Stoke Newington, London N16 8BJ
– free event (but sign up for tickets) – information here and here
 

November 2016 – upcoming gigs – Spratleys Japs recreated live in Brighton, co-starring Stephen Evens, Emily Jones and sundry Brighton psychedelic talent (19th November)

16 Nov

'Spratleys Japs Live', 19th November 2016Though it’s long sold out (Facebook and local word-of-mouth rendering any blog efforts unnecessary), I thought I’d tip the hat to Saturday’s Brighton revival-cum-recreation of the obscure and short-lived Spratleys Japs, the first full live outing that the project’s songs have ever had.

Nominally a band, one which first wormed its way out into the light back in 1999, Spratleys Japs were one of the more enigmatic branches of the Cardiacs family. Head Cardiac Tim Smith composed the cryptic bulk of it, played bass guitar and organ, and added scratchy vocals; his then-girlfriend Jo Spratley sang bright and artless (like an urchin sparrow) and dabbled in theremin and flugelhorn. Tone and shape was inspired by a gloriously malfunctioning Mellotron keyboard on loan from ‘Tron historian Andy Thompson – its antique tape-replay system disrupted; its brass and string sounds invaded and polluted by grand staggers, stammers and dark blarts.

The rest of the instrumental roles were filled by the Rev-Ups, a Mexican desert band transplanted across the Atlantic and camping out in the New Forest. Dibbling around in Spratleys history brings you more information, albeit in baffling crepuscular fashion. There are stories of cutlery-hoarding obsessives hunched over humming home-made electronics; of a dilapidated old valve-tech recording studio buried deep in the Hampshire woods (“a bit rotten and a bit covered in leaves and rats, and rats spiders… ‘Doctor Who’ stylee control room… wiring swung between olden telegraph poles…”); and of vocals recorded “at dusk, in the drizzle”, bounced off the surface of a stagnant pond.


 
All very interesting, but probably spurious. It’s true about the ailing ‘Tron (and some elements of the dank forest sessions story might even be based on reality) but Spratleys were, in all likelihood, a Jo and Tim duo project: something cooked up through Smith production wizardry and swathed with the usual Cardiacs thicket of playful disinformation and purposefully eccentric mythology. In the decade following the album release, there was occasional talk about taking Spratleys to the stage, none of which came to anything: Tim’s near-fatal stroke and heart attack in 2008 finally put paid even to the talk.

What was left was the music – one album, one single with extra scraps – and very interesting it was too, be it the twinkling, seething, termite’s-nets funk of Fanny, the nursery piano and Wagnerian choir of Sparrows or Tim whispering an endless meandering verse over a strummed bass in Oh. Half of Cardiacs’ songbook had always been weirdly Arcadian, yearning out and away from regimented urban suburbia into a half-imagined clotted English greenwood full of growing things. Spratleys suggests what might have happened if Cardiacs had escaped there only to find out that it was a swamp, vegetation, trash and identity alike inexorably decaying into fertile sludge.


 
The grand, precarious staircases of extended harmony are pure Smith: parkour chord progressions racing on to destination unknown, delighting in the unpredictable terrain underfoot. The glue and ingredients which surround them are different, or at the very least repurpose and re-examine previous Smithian influences. Looking back at it now, it resembles nothing so much as various Cardiacs urges bumping up against the make-do, repurpose-and-discover influence of Faust, recoiling a little dazed and reconsidering. Creatures rustle; flashes of crude bayou guitar and ’50s rock’n’roll lick set up home with spluttering electronics. Vinyl pops; lyrics torn from malfunctioning phrasebooks float and spin in the eddies; all of the vocals sound as if they’ve been transposed from worn vellum. Jo, too, leaves her mark on proceedings – tugging Tim’s obsessive tendencies into more abstract, wandering territories, her childlike voice and delivery a perfect foil for his.

Regards this weekend’s recreation, Jo is the only original Spratley left standing. Though he’s recovered sufficiently to recently disinter and prepare a long-shelved Sea Nymphs album for release, Tim is still a long, long, unlikely way from playing live again. The Rev-Ups have long since dispersed and disappeared (probably back into the realms of Tim’s imagination); and as for the crumbling Mellotron, Andy Thompson (the entirely entitled bastard) has long since callously repaired it without a thought to history. There have been efforts to keep the project in the family, one way or another: Jo’s son Jesse Cutts (of Heavy Lamb) is backing her on guitar, and remaining roles are filled by sundry Brighton multi-instrumentalists and Cardiacs sympathisers. In the bag for the band are Étienne Rodes of Clowwns, his brother Adrien Rodes (once of Rect.angle, now playing with Étienne in Brother Twain) and the frighteningly busy Damo Waters (drummer for Clowwns, ZOFFF, Brother Twain and Slug; organist for Crayola Lectern; sessioneer for Field Music, British Sea Power, Chris T-T and plenty of others; everything-ist for his own project Muddy Suzuki when he has a spare moment).

At the moment, it’s not yet clear whether all of this is going to be a one-off amplified and extended celebration; or whether it’s going to become part of that eagerly growing body of post-Cardiacs musical life, joining the massing bands and solo artists which throng the increasingly regular Tim Smith fundraisers. Meanwhile, some indication as to what’s coming on the night could be found here – a kind of dry run, as Jo and Heavy Lamb take a rockier, punkified crack at the Spratleys song Vine at last year’s Alphabet Business Convention.


 

‘Spratleys Japs Performed Live’ (featuring members of Spratleys Japs, Crayola Lectern, Clowwns, Brother Twain, Muddy Suzuki) + Stephen Evens + Emily Jones
The Green Door Store, 2-4 Trafalgar Arches, Lower Goods Yard, Brighton Train Station, Brighton BN1 4FQ, England
Saturday 19th November 2016, 7.30pm
– information here and here

In support are Stephen EvEns (the current solo project by thoughtfully-hangdog drummer and multi-instrumental songwriter Steve Gilchrist – that’s Jo playing the therapist in his video below) and Cornish psychedelic folkie Emily Jones, whose own work shows a (possibly accidental) affinity with the softer end of Smithiana both in its occasional odd-corner harmonies and changeability, and in its occasional fascination with small, obscurely significant things.



 
If you’re not discouraged by that “sold-old” sign, see links above for the tickets that might become available… or just show up on the door with some cash on the night and hope for the best. If the Green Door Store has windows, crane up against them; fog them with sorry breath; make the kind of forest-creature creeling noises which you’d suspect might be just out of earshot on the Spratleys Japs album. They might take pity on you, and let you in.


 

November 2016 – upcoming London jazz gigs – FuMar at Map Studio Café (17th); Laura Jurd’s Dinosaur + Daniel Herskedal Trio meet the BBC Concert Orchestra at the RFH (19th)

15 Nov

Two more London jazz gigs, from two very different generations of musician, in two very different venues…

* * * * * * * *

FuMar, 2016

FuMar
MAP Studio Café, 46 Grafton Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3DU, England
Thursday 17th November 2016, 8.00pm
information

FuMar is a saxophone and piano duo based in Paris. Phil Furneaux and Krys Markowski have been friends for over forty years (meeting on their first day at Manchester University) and started playing together in 2010, using Skype and Ohmstudio for remote collaborations. After performing their first concerts in 2012, the duo released their debut album ‘Lanercost Sessions’ in 2015, followed by a tour of France. The FuMar repertoire is rooted in jazz (and, more recently, classical) but stays bluesy, funky and mellow with a constant dialogue between piano and sax. The band has the philosophy that “music is a transmission of emotion” and attempts to develop pieces that journey between melancholic and happy, comforting and unexpected, allowing the audience to experience a range of emotions during their concerts.

“FuMar’s second album, ‘The Lanercost Sessions 2’ (recorded, like its predecessor, in the fourteenth-century Priory at Lanercost in Cumbria) was released a few months ago, back in September.  FuMar use this venue due to its acoustic qualities, which make the notes played “hang in the air.” Moving on from the first all-covers set of the first ‘Lanercost Sessions’, this album is a mixture of FuMar’s own compositions and some interpretations of emotive classical tunes – Satie’s ‘Gymnopédie No 1’, Gabriel Fauré’s ‘Après un rêve’ – and a couple of Latin-American Cuban classics (Antonio Jobim’s Bach Meets Bossa and Mongo Santamaría’s Afro Blue). It also features the duo’s own free adaptation of Beethoven’s final string quartet (Op. 131), based on a study and extrapolation of the first eight bars extended into floating chordal improvisations.”



 
* * * * * * * *

As I type this up, guitarist Alex Roth’s London gig at IKLECTIK (with his Future Currents avant-guitar trio) is taking place. His bandmate in Blue Eyed Hawk, trumpeter-composer Laura Jurd – herself in the middle of a tour with her electric quartet Dinosaur – plays a date at the end of the week. As with the Future Currents gig, it’s part of the ten-day EFG London Jazz Festival, but this particular gig – at the Royal Festival Hall – is on a much larger scale (certainly ensemble-wise)…

EFG London Jazz Festival presents:
BBC Concert Orchestra/Keith Lockhart + Laura Jurd + Daniel Herskedal Trio
Royal Festival Hall @ Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, Waterloo, London, SE1 8XX, England
Saturday 19th November 2016, 4.30pm
– information here, here and here

“Formerly known as the Laura Jurd Quartet, a new band awakens from the jaws of extinction. They are Dinosaur and they join the BBC Concert Orchestra tonight to give you an evening of fiery sonic experimentation and abstraction.

Dinosaur, 2016

Dinosaur, 2016

“Trumpeter, composer, bandleader and BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist Laura Jurd has a passion for “making things up” and today’s concert opens with her new “Work for orchestra & Dinosaur”, combining influences from both classical and jazz music.

“We also hear a new work by Norwegian Tuba player Daniel Herskedal who defies the conventions of his instrument. He pushes the boundaries both technically and sonically, creating spellbinding and mesmerising sounds. He’ll be performing with his trio (also featuring pianist Eyolf Dale and percussionist Gard Nilsen)

“Keith Lockhart conducts.”

Here’s footage of both acts, minus the orchestra…



 

November/December 2016 – upcoming music theatre – sounds from Billy Bottle & The Multiple’s ‘The Other Place’ and a rundown of the other shows in the All The Right Notes multi-media music theatre festival (15th November to 3rd December)

15 Nov

This just in – Lee Fletcher, touring soundwizard for Billy Bottle & The Multiple, just tipped me off about this Bandcamp montage he’s just made of their currently touring show ‘The Other Place’.

There should be a YouTube version shortly, which I’ll paste in when it’s available. Meanwhile, there’s more on the show in general here, and more on its current dates here.

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One of the ‘Other Place’ dates is in London this weekend – taking place at Camden People’s Theatre, as part of their ‘All The Right Notes’ “gig-theatre” festival exploring the interaction, interweaving and intersectionality of theatre and music on the fringes. While on the subject, I should post up a little more about the festival, since it’s starting today.

So here’s a rapid rundown of what’s on offer in ‘All The Right Notes’ between 15th November and 3rd December. Most of the text is stripped and compressed from the homepage (where there’s full dates, times and details if you want to pursue the shows in depth). I’ve added or rearranged a few things where necessary, including some personal impressions. Because performance artists aren’t the only people who can mash up texts… oh yeah… (postures)

Some of the shows are pretty much straight musical gigs, with the theatre inherent in the performance rather than explicitly mounted as part of the staging. Digifolk musicians and quixotic archivists The Memory Band (who, in their own words, “navigate a dream landscape of fading identity, dredging up forgotten histories from old maps” and “the ghost-lit back-roads of British traditional music where digital machinery and acoustic musicians congregate to make old music from the future”) offer a performance previewing their upcoming fifth album ‘A Fair Field’, which spans a world of folk word and song from the fourteenth-century narrative epic ‘Piers Plowman’ to the generation of unaccompanied English folk singers who passed in the mid-twentieth century to Northumbrian modernist poet Basil Bunting. It’s best to let them map out their own album description too – “the music was fed by stories of magical hares and the recollections of ballad sellers bearing placards at the great fairs of times past, the fields of which now lie buried beneath leisure centres, electricity substations and retail parks. It traces the connection between the headstone of a man killed in Norfolk by the sails of a windmill, the first observations of solar flares, incendiarism, council estates and an old man’s recollection of ploughing the land by starlight in another time.” Later in the season, Daniel Marcus Clark‘s ‘Between’ looks for “the story in every song and the song in every story” in a solo set delivered by beat-up old voice and a pair of guitars via a mood and method compared variously to Marc Ribot, Mississipi John Hurt and Vincent Price.



 
As you’d expect from a theatre space preoccupied with fringe activity and political art, there’s a strong representation of standalone and intersectional aspects within the broad church of contemporary dance music and the cultures which make it up, taking in hot and fluid topics of race, feminism, class, communality and chosen ways of self-expression. Accompanied by beatboxer/vocalists Kate & Nate (from Battersea Arts Centre’s Beatbox Academy), actor-writer Lauren Gauge will present her raw feminist comedy-with-music ‘The Unmarried’, a drama of raucous, brassy, party-friendly resistance to patriarchy, rhythmically underscored by a live mix of beat-boxing, ‘90s dance hits and old-school UK garage tunes – “gig theatre… theatre you can rave to.” Earlier in the season, reknowned London grime MC Flowdan will present a special performance of his lyrics (stripped from their soundsystem context and performed with voice alone under a spotlight), while the festival will close with musician-performer Will Dickie’s live-art DJ set ‘The Rave Space’ (a staged rave which explores the ideals and situation of unity through dance culture, and which overlaps the boundaries of dance party communion and theatre-space performance, although Will’s keeping schtum about precisely how this occurs…)


 
Several pieces operate within the publically settled, privately fragile area of contemporary early adulthood and its codes of faith,behaviour and expectations which end up being kicked around by our own doubts and insecurities and by the challenges and occasional perversities of our individual drives and experiences. Songwriter, actress and theatre maker Isobel Rogers performs her open-mic drama ‘Elsa’, about a woman working in a coffee shop while pursuing her dreams on the side. As she drifts in and out of the characters who come into the cafe, Elsa is confronted with different characters from both literature and reality and begins to lead the lives of Nina, Miranda, Lillian and Grace in her own head. Keeping a part of herself elsewhere through song, Elsa plays a trick on a world that keeps telling her how to “be”.

Heavier notes are provided by Rachel Mars and Alicia Jane Turner. The former (with musical support from singer-songwriter Louise Mothersole of Sh!t Theatre) performs her proudly spiky, witty work ‘Our Carnal Hearts’, “a gleeful, thrilling and murky celebration of envy, competitive spirits and all the times we fuck each other over… performed with a live surround-sound choral score, it is born from the suspect parentage of an ideological rally, a drunken sing-song and a seductive dream.” The latter uses her skills as composer, performance artist and multi-instrumentalist to present ‘Breathe (Everything Is Going To Be Okay)’ – “a full-body immersion of soaring strings and spiralling sound in a daringly vulnerable solo performance exploring the relationship between our bodies and minds… blending visceral live music with intimate confessions, Breathe is an unflinchingly honest dissection of our daily anxieties and fears.”

 
As you’ll guess from the above in particular, not everything in the festival is kid- or family-friendly, but there are some exceptions. Moths (performer/musician Joe White and theatre maker Tanya Stephenson, both of whom also work with perennial percussion-fest STOMP) present ‘Pale Phoebe’ – a performance mingling storytelling, clever lighting and projection effects and percussive, androgynous contemporary synth pop to tell the dreamlike story of an imagined journey to the moon. In ‘The Castle Builder’, punky, childlike, lo-fi electropopper Kid Carpet and actor-storyteller Vic Llewellyn join forces for a playful, uplifting show based around true tales of unlikely people who created extraordinary outsider art just for the pleasure of it. In the process, they ask questions about art, who it’s for and what mark it leaves on the world. In addition, each performance will feature a different maker, who at the end of the show will present the audience with something they build or create using the debris from the show and anything else they find scattered around the stage.



 
If you’re after more esoterically cerebral (or potentially baffling) performances, a couple of those are waiting in the wings. Perhaps coincidentally, both are two-handers featuring frenetically active male text’n’context shredders and reknowned female experimental violinists who blur the boundaries between being muses, partners and upsetters. In ‘Within The Context Of No Context’ Tim Parkinson and Angharad Davies explore the crossover between theatre-as-sound and sound-as-theatre via prepared-violin music drama interpretations of avant-garde compositions by Louis D’Heudieres, Stefan Thut, Alison Knowles, John Cage and others (with a title inspired by George S Trow’s influential essay about the decline of society in the new age). In ‘Seeping Through (CPT)’, regular collaborators Aisha Orazbayeva and Tim Etchells perform an intense, rolling two-hour improvisation in spontaneous fragments, with text and music treated as fluid forces in the same space, fading in and out of each other, breathing together, cutting and cancelling each other, creating a dynamic and always unstable landscape. Tim collages and constructs the show’s verbal content from diverse fragments of notebook scribbles, past performance text and works in progress, creating collisions, loops, and unexpected connections between different spoken materials; while Aisha plays vigorously deconstructed classical violin using extended technique, strange sounds, and “radically remixed and quoted” elements from the classical repertoire. (As an example, below is an earlier Etchells/Orazbayeva work: nearly six excruciating yet compelling minutes of the duo wringing as many disrupted nuances as possible from brief sentences and clauses recited over grinding string noise.)

 

Also on the festival bill are a pair of straight (well, relatively straight) musicals. “Misguided and aspirational” performance art group mingbeast present their “uplifting musical” ‘Awful Things Can Happen At Any Time’ (in which two barely-prepared pop wannabes struggle to get their act and songs together on a shared and battered iPad, jostling the business of dreaming about being in a band and actually becoming one).There’s a work-in-progress showing of Duckie star Boogaloo Stu’s ‘The Regeneration Game’, a comedy musical taking well-deserved sideswipes at the property racket currently turning scores of community pubs into community-detached luxury flats. See landlord and landlady Kev and Babs, from closure-threatened pub The Dog & Dumplings, plan to take on the big boys in a tale of “a boozer in decline, dodgy developers and dogging…”

A couple of pieces embark on voyages into the family and the circumstantial shocks and resolutions to be found within it. Armed with voice and electronic drumkit, poet-musician Antosh Wojcik performs his innovative, touching ‘Building A Voice-Percussion Gun To Kill Glitches In Memory’, in which he explores “the effects of dementia on speech, memory and motor skills. Assigning rhythms to family members, Antosh attempts to build a ‘voice-percussion gun’ to destroy inherited Alzheimer’s. Poems become beats become glitches in time in this poignant and mesmeric display of live drumming and spoken word.” Ziad Nagy’s ‘Too Human’ is “an interdisciplinary exploration into the chasms of family constellations, the fragmentary structures that make us who we are, and the insatiable desire to make things better. Through the disjointedness of live collage making, experimental music production, and confessional storytelling, Ziad lays bare what at first seems idiosyncratic and slowly transforms into the poetically ubiquitous.” (As you can see, I didn’t much feel like paraphrasing all that.)

Other events include a panel session discussing why live music and theatre are converging (featuring contemporary music theatre driver Patrick Eakin Young, journalist/editor Andrzej Lukowski of ‘Time Out‘ and ‘Drowned In Sound‘, and punk singer/theatre maker Racheal Clerke); and ‘Controlled Madness’, in which DJ, party promoter and acid house philosopher-celebrity Andy Blake engages in a late-night quasi-symposium (lit and soundtracked to conjure up a backstreet backroom atmosphere) with cultural commentators Ben Bashford and Joe Muggs, dealing on party culture and its role (questioned or otherwise) in contemporary society.

The ‘Big Bang’ evening features four work-in-progress shorts and excerpts – a love monologue from poet Ross Sutherland (compiled from actual outbursts he’s shouted at drum and bass DJs mid-set); ‘High Rise Estate Of Mind?’ (a tower-block, housing-crisis, class-and-character study in beatbox, rap and spoken word by Paul Cree and Conrad Murray of Beats & Elements); a scratch performance of sleepwalking, sleeptalking husband-and-wife dream drama by Lillian Henley and Tom Adams; and Nima Séne’s ‘I Belong’, in which Nima and her alter ego Beige Bitch explore the concept of belonging (nostalgia, deluding, seductive and political) via a melange of theatrical tricks, electronic sound, pop culture and autobiography.

 
Probably a good place to start (assuming that you can clear your evening) is tomorrow’s special night-after-opening night show ‘Note Form’. This features music-heavy excerpts from ‘Awful Things Can Happen At Any Time’, ‘High Rise Estate Of Mind?’ and She Goat’s ‘DoppelDänger’ (a “theatrical live-music gig of original music and unlikely cover songs with synth-pop, electronic textures and baroque harpsichord”); plus a standalone piece – ‘The Beginning Of The End Of The Heroic Child’, a “secular ecstatic ritual” by Nwando Ebizie‘s Afro-Anglo-Caribbean goddess persona Lady Vendredi which “transform(s) pain into beauty via the medium of discarded remnants of empty trash signifiers. Moving from the sea beneath the waters of the past through the fourth dimension and passing to a glimpse of a forgotten future. A rite for all of those who wish to take part in an inter-dimensional breakdown. A wild ride down a rabbit hole of splintering realities. Dogmas challenged, desires and dreams unravelled.” I think that pretty much covers everything – and so does this.
 

October 2016 – upcoming London gigs (Independent Country, She Makes War and Zoot Lynam at Daylight Music on the 1st; the debut London shows for Flock Of Dimes on the 4th) – plus Simon Reynolds’ glam tome launch events in Sheffield, London and Manchester (4th to 6th)

24 Sep

At the start of October, the Daylight Music autumn season continues with a splash of country, a clash of cymbal, and just a dash of kohl…

* * * * * * * *

Daylight Music 234

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 234: Independent Country + She Makes War + Zoot Lynam
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 1st October 2016, 12.00pm
– free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

Blurbs by Daylight Music, with interjections by me…

Independent Country are a six-piece band who play country versions of classic indie hits from the ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s. Hear your favourite shoegazing tunes reimagined with pedal steel, lush three-part harmonies and fiddle.” Sounds as if someone’s taking the Mojave 3 idea and yanking it to the logical ludicrous extreme. Their debut album’s called ‘TrailerParkLife’… Well, at least it’s not another sodding rockgrass band; and Independent Country’s version of an old Jesus and Mary Chain tune (originally from the latter’s oft-slated, synth-pop-slanted ‘Automatic’), pulls off the neat trick of sounding as if it’s the original, rather than the cover. Either they’ve genuinely discovered Jim Reid’s inner roadhouse man, or they’re just really good at putting new blue-denim flesh on pallid British songbones.


 
She Makes War is the gloom-pop solo project of multi-instrumentalist, visual artist and all-round polymath Laura Kidd…” whom ‘Misfit City’s covered before, back at the start of August when she did a runaround British tour with Carina Round. Back then I made a few appreciative noises about Laura’s one-woman cottage-industry explorations: dark, brooding song topics sheathed in driven, melodic alt-(but-not-too-alt).rock, and self-directed videos which make the most of her Goth-next-door/folkie looks and still presence. Here’s one of the latter – a semi-animated video for her song Paper Thin, shot in New York and Boston with a comradely guest appearance from Belly’s Tanya Donnelly.


 
Zoot Lynam doesn’t just march to the beat of a different drum; he plays a different drum altogether: Zoot’s instrument of choice is the handpan (or “hang”), which is essentially a sci-fi spaceship of a percussion instrument. This is the first time a handpan’s been played at Daylight Music, so come and see it in action!” Web information on Zoot is a little thin on the ground – frankly, there’s not much more to that homepage than a bold stare and a waxed moustache – but it seems that he started to make his name back in the 1990s as an actor via work in various British theatres and voiceover performances in cartoons (I must have heard him thousands of times while my son watched ‘The Willows in Winter’).

I’m guessing that his move into music ties in with his theatre work, since I’ve tracked down odds and ends about live scoring and workshops, and because he comes to his gigs with a reputation as a raconteur. All of the evidence suggests that he’s one of those perpetually youthful, puckish characters existing on the dividing line between theatre and other arts: a stage polymath with a little bit of the mystic or magician to him. It’s a little early in the season, but here he is with something Christmassy on the handpans (to be honest, it’s all that I could find…)

 
* * * * * * * *

promo-2016-flockofdimes

Only a few posts ago, I was writing about Jane Siberry and was musing on other, next-generation musicians who seem to be following the trail Jane beat for a female art pop perspective back in the 1980s (some of whom, apparently guided by a mutual sense of community and affinity, are playing support slots on her ongoing British tour). It seems that I missed another one out.

Tickets are still available for the debut London shows for Flock Of Dimes (the solo project from Wye Oak frontwoman and guitarist Jenn Wasner) in early October. She’ll be playing a lunchtime instore show at Rough Trade East, followed by a full evening show up the road at the Hackney in Victoria. Flock Of Dimes has been developing for the last four years alongside Jenn’s decade-long body of work with Wye Oak (and her occasional ventures into dance pop as half of Dungeonesse. It’s taken until now, however, for Jenn to release a full Dimes album (something which perhaps coincides with her departure last year from her longtime Baltimore home to resettle in Durham, North Carolina). That album, ‘If You See Me, Say Yes’, was released yesterday on Partisan Records, and has been trailed in recent months by a pair of singles, Semaphore and Everything Is Happening Today.

Jenn has described her vision for the former single as the “struggle to communicate with each other, over distances literal and figurative, great and small,” and worked with film directors Michael Patrick O’Leary and Ashley North Compton to create a striking animated video for the song. According to Ashley and Patrick, all involved “wanted to present the tension of reaching out and not being able to touch. Fleeting communication with an outside world, felt but not seen, and Jenn’s interaction with her own double, create a hallucinatory sense of limbo. It creates a solitary confinement, wherein no matter how partnered or joined we find ourselves, those selves, our own best and worst companions, are all we have.”



 

Fantasies of isolation aside, the current form of Flock Of Dimes sounds liberating and upbeat, with less of the noisy indie mumble of Wye Oak. The project brings her pop melancholy into focus. Wye Oak might have become a poppier proposition in the last few years – 2011’s Spiral single definitely had a touch of the funk – but even Spiral left Jenn echoing in the distance like a mermaid dream, while the same year’s Civilian had more of an indie mumble. In contrast (and maybe on account of Jenn’s earlier dry runs at R&B with Dungeonesse), Semaphore is percolating electronic commercial art-pop in a 1986 Jane Siberry/Peter Gabriel vein, with a dash of country and bursts of beefy funk-roll bassline: qualities shared by Everything Is Happening Today, even if the latter has a more contemporary-sounding, speaker-busting alt.rock distortion halo wrapped around the chorus.

As you’ll gather from the names I’m dropping here, Dimes also has 1980s art pop written all over it – the stadium-scale reverb in which the guitars float and jostle like belfry runaways; the slick electronic technology which sounds as if it’s on the verge of cracking and hatching into a giant ungainly chick; and most of all the sense of an empowered, expressive perspective using all of this sonic trickery to blow open the windows and release the songs. I hate to sound as if I’m trying to ring a band’s death-knell (and I suspect that Jenn’s personal loyalties inform, inspire and justify her musical work as much as anything else) but on record, at least, Flock Of Dimes suggests ways forward for Jenn which Wye Oak simply doesn’t.

  • Rough Trade East, Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, Spitalfields, London, E1 6QL, England, Tuesday 4th October 2016, 12:45pminformation
  • The Victoria, 451 Queensbridge Road, Hackney, London, E8 3AS, England, Tuesday 4th October 2016, 7.30pminformation

Flock Of Dimes: 'If You See Me' (promotional flyer)

* * * * * * * *

Simon Reynolds: 'Shock And Awe'

Simon Reynolds: ‘Shock And Awe’

Finally, legendary music writer Simon Reynolds – the man who defined post-rock and re-canonised post-punk, and has striven to contextualise and illuminate every ingredient in contemporary pop (from the most challenging Afro-American sub-bass growl’n’gurgle to the flossiest bit of floating white vanity-froth) has most recently been focussing on glam rock.

He’ll be launching his new book ‘Shock And Awe: Glam Rock & Its Legacy‘ via a short English book tour in early October. Dates and summary below:

“In ‘Shock And Awe…’, Simon Reynolds explores this most decadent of genres on both sides of the Atlantic. Marc Bolan, David Bowie, Roxy Music, Alice Cooper, The Sweet, Gary Glitter, New York Dolls, Sparks, Slade, Suzi Quatro, Cockney Rebel, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Mott The Hoople — all are represented here. Reynolds charts the retro-future sounds, outrageous styles and gender-fluid sexual politics that came to define the first half of the seventies and brings it right up to date with a final chapter on glam in hip hop, Lady Gaga, and the aftershocks of David Bowie’s death.”

All events will also feature a glam rock film screening: there’s no information on what’s playing at Sheffield, but for Manchester it’ll be Ringo Starr’s 1972 T-Rex rockumentary ‘Born To Boogie’ and for London it’ll be a “special curated series” of glam rock videos.

Again, there’s no mention of a sparring partner at Sheffield: but in Manchester Simon will be talking with a fellow ‘Melody Maker’ polymath (journalist, curator, pop historian, film director and St Etienne member Bob Stanley) and in London with ‘Guardian’ pop music critic Alexis Petridis from ‘The Guardian’. Simon Price (a Reynolds friend and contemporary who knows more than a little about the glamour chase and how to spin a polemic on it) will be joining in at London with a guest DJ set.
 

September 2016 – upcoming London gigs – Penny Rimbaud’s musical Wilfred Owen evening at the Horse Hospital and the ‘Songs of Separation’ female folkstravaganza at King’s Place (both 9th)

31 Aug

Here’s some more upcoming September shows in London – a musical setting of First World War poems down at the Horse Hospital courtesy of parts of the Crass family, and an all-star, all-female folk meet at Kings Place to celebrate the collective indigenous folk music of Scotland and England (nice to see some fellow feeling there).

Sadly, both of these concerts are on the same night, so choices will need to be made – unless you take a good look at the timings and figure that you can make the best of both, via a gruelling sprint or rapid Tube ride between Russell Square and the upper reaches of Kings Cross…

* * * * * * * *

Penny Rimbaud recites the Works of Wilfred Owen, 9th September 2016Penny Rimbaud recites the Works of Wilfred Owen (with Kate Shortt & Liam Noble)
The Horse Hospital, The Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London, WC1N 1JD, England
Friday 9th September 2016, 7.00pm
information

A couple of notes from the event blurb:

“As part of the exhibition ‘Under The Changing Light: The Landscapes of The Somme’ (consisting of photos by Toby Webster), Penny Rimbaud recites the works of Wilfred Owen with Kate Shortt (cello) and Liam Noble (piano).

Penny Lapsang Rimbaud was born in south-west London. He is a poet, writer, philosopher, painter, and musician. He was formally a part of the performance art groups Exit and Ceres Confusion. In 1977 he co-founded the anarchist punk band Crass with Steve Ignorant, which disbanded in 1984. From then up until 2000 he devoted himself to writing. He returned as a performance poet working with Australian saxophonist Louise Elliot, as well as a wide variety of other jazz musicians as the group L’Académie Des Vanités.”

Regarding Penny’s accompanists, both Kate Shortt and Liam Noble have previous Rimbaud form. Both have collaborated with him in L’Académie Des Vanités forebear Last Amendment – itself formerly the Crass Collective or Crass Agenda performance art group, set up as a post-split arrangement enabling former Crasseurs to work together without either over-commodifying their ex-band’s name or being restricted by its form.

Liam needs little introduction to those who’ve seen his spiky, droll playing across the British jazz scene over the last two decades (initially playing with Stan Sulzmann, John Stevens, Harry Beckett and Bobby Wellins, latterly leading his own projects or collaborating with Christine Tobin). So far, Kate is arguably less well-known; but her witty multi-instrumental singer-songwriter contributions to contemporary British cabaret have drawn comparisons to both Victoria Wood and Jim Tavares. Her Crass connections, continued membership of L’Académie Des Vanités and willingness to provide more sober aspects to events like this one demonstrate that she’s by no means cocooned in the cabaret box.

As for Penny himself – a lifelong anarcho-libertarian and punk hero who was initially inspired by an unlikely literary combination of Ernest Hemingway, Henrik Ibsen and Walt Whitman – there’s plenty to say on the varied subject of Crass and his work in and out of it. This is generally handled by better counter-culture historians than myself. If you’re new to Penny (or to Crassage in general), here’s a fairly good place to start, courtesy of ‘The Quietus’…

* * * * * * * *

Kings Place Festival 2016 presents:
‘Songs of Separation’: Eliza Carthy + Karine Polwart + Mary Macmaster + Kate Young + Hannah James/Hazel Askew/Rowan Rheingans (Lady Maisery) + Jenn Butterworth + Jenny Hill + Hannah Read
Hall One @ Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AG, England
Friday 9th September 2016 – 9:45pm
information

From the Festival promotional info:

“In June 2015, ten of Scotland and England’s leading female folk musicians joined forces to explore the rich musical, cultural and linguistic heritage of the two countries. What emerged is one of the landmark collaborative folk albums of recent years, Songs of Separation.

Various Artists: 'Songs Of Separation'

Various Artists: ‘Songs Of Separation’

“‘Songs of Separation’ is an outstanding collaboration between ten of Scotland and England’s leading female folk musicians. Devised and recorded in just six days, on the fairytale Hebridean Isle of Eigg, the musicians explored the rich musical heritage of the two countries, drawing on their respective and collective musical experiences and crafting something both new and very special.

“Celebrating the similarities and differences in our musical, linguistic and cultural heritage, and set in the context of a post-referendum world, the work aims to evoke emotional responses and prompt new thinking about the issue of separation as it occurs in all our lives. The collection of traditional and original songs aims to get to the heart of what we feel when we are faced with a separation; linking us both to previous generations who shared the same human experiences and responses to separation, and to generations that will follow. The horizons of the project are already evolving and speak as much about connection, as they do about separation.

“The album was launched in January 2016, with a sell-out tour and received exceptional reviews from the music press and musicians alike. Opportunities to experience ‘Songs of Separation’ performed live are rare… and unmissable.


 
“A richly evocative and quietly provocative collection of traditional and newly composed songs, the artists behind this album include two of the most celebrated contemporary voices on the UK folk scene, England’s Eliza Carthy (fiddle, percussion) and Scotland’s Karine Polwart (tenor guitar, Indian harmonium); two boundary-breaking Scots, Mary Macmaster of The Poozies (harp) and Kate Young (fiddle); Hannah James (accordion, percussion), Hazel Askew (flute, melodeon, harp) and Rowan Rheingans (banjo, fiddle, viola) from the award-winning English ensemble Lady Maisery; Jenn Butterworth (guitar) and Jenny Hill (double bass), brilliant backline players who have worked across both the English and Scottish trad scenes; and Hannah Read (fiddle, guitar), a New York-based musician and singer who spent much of her childhood on the Isle of Eigg.”

This is the last ‘Songs Of Separation’ concert of the year, with previous 2016 performances having occurred at assorted festivals (Celtic Connections, Dumfries and Galloway Festival of Arts, Cardiff’s Festival of Voice, the Cambridge Folk Festival) as well as shows in Edinburgh, Stroud, Didcot and Bury. The project is ongoing, with recent developments including onstage collaborations with schoolchildren and mythology-inspired plans for field recordings, among other ideas.
 

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